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I use a technique from Cooks Illustrated for cooking my brown rice. I simmer for 25 minutes and then steam for 10. It gets a nice consistent result. But how long can I hold the rice between simmering and steaming? Does it matter if it sits out for 30 - 45 minutes before finishing? Would I need to increase the steam time? How much? Are there any safety concerns?

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You can wait as long as you need to between pre-cook (that's the simmering) and finish (the steaming), it's how things work in restaurants.

The steaming time will only go up if you let the temperature drop appreciably. Even so, you shouldn't need more than an extra minute or so. Steaming is pretty benign to rice.

As far as the safety concerns...if you keep the temperature above 135 F, you are out of the danger zone, and you can hold there forever. The danger zone is 41 to 135 F, but the goal in cooling foods is to get it from hot to cool in 6 hours...below 70 in two, and then 4 hours to make it below 41 (yes, I'm ServSafe certified). So your hypothetical 30-45 minutes shouldn't cause you a problem. But watch it if you start going long.

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What I was really wondering about the safety concerns is how much it even matter if it was held in the danger zone? Would 10+ minutes in a steamer kill off anything that may have shown up while it was being held? –  yossarian Dec 28 '10 at 14:17
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@yossarian: Do danger-zone concerns really factor into rice? Unless you had some kind of cross-contamination, it should be bacteria-free to begin with. –  Aaronut Dec 28 '10 at 17:30
    
@aaronut, yeah, I kinda figured that it would be ok whatever I did with it since it's rice and I'm steaming it before service, but I'm not positive. –  yossarian Dec 28 '10 at 18:01
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Sorry guys, rice can be a serious problem...the specific bacteria is bacillus cereus. And the problem isn't that you can't kill the bacteria, it's that the bacteria create toxins that persist after the bacteria is dead. But again, the times you are talking about aren't going to be a problem. Just don't let it sit all afternoon, then think the steaming will take care of anything. It will, indeed, kill the bacteria, but not the toxins. If you ever want to freak yourself out, take the ServSafe course. They get your attention up front by telling you everything you want to avoid. –  Doug Johnson-Cookloose Dec 29 '10 at 0:42
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